Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Starfish beating Spiders in the Arab Spring

Watch it quickly on BBC iPlayer before it expires, if you're in the UK. Monday's episode of How Facebook Changed the World: The Arab Spring: Episode 1 contains a great quote 28 minutes in:

The programme interviews Nawara Negm who says, 'The problem with the old school thinking of the Mubarak regime is that it thought that only factions that had a pyramid structure were dangerous. That is why it was confronting parties like the Muslim Brotherhood, and other Islamic factions, because they were traditional organizations with a hierarchical structure. He thought that because the Internet had no structure and leadership that it wasn't a threat.'

The counter-argument is put by Evgeny Morozov in The Net Delusion and, back in January this year when the events unfolded so rapidly, hour by hour, it was difficult to get a perspective on what was happening. But the argument in the BBC programme is that the protesters, at least in Egypt, were very aware that everything they wrote on the Internet was monitored by government forces; and they claim to have used that to their advantage quite deliberately.

Now this BBC production gives a perfect, pretty much contemporary, further illustration of the thesis put out by Ori Brafman and Rod Beckstrom in The Starfish and the Spider: the unstoppable power of leaderless organizations.

In the book, they give examples of the battles between centralized music labels and file sharing networks; they draw illustrations from Skype, eBay, Craig's List, Amazon and others. But it's their contrast between the ease with which Cortez wiped out the centralized Aztec society and the difficulty faced by those trying to 'tame' the Apache Indian society which was organized much more loosely that comes most close to helping us to understand what's gone in this year's Arab Spring revolutions across North Africa.

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More at www.StarfishAndSpider.com